You might be surprised by the number of good quality documentaries YouTube has to offer.
It just goes to show you that you do not have to look all over the internet or even turn on your TV to find a good one.
YouTube offers a wide array of great documentaries for just about any subject matter.
This is why we are going through the best free documentaries on YouTube that we have found to have an interesting subject matter, are high quality and totally worth your time.
The list is not in any particular order:
1. This is The Zodiac Speaking
This documentary explores the murders of the Zodiac Killer.
There is still no explanation for the murders that went on in California between December 1968 – October 1969.
The Zodiac killer’s true identity was never found out and he evaded law enforcement multiple times.
There have been a huge number of theories regarding his identity yet they remain only as theories. A David Fincher made a movie about the Zodiac killer as well. The high-profile killer and his unsolved crimes prove to be a fascinating and bizarre subject that has struck fear into the hearts of many Americans since the murders.
This documentary, however, is a bit different from others regarding the Zodiac killer as it uses factual analysis and lets the viewer draw conclusions rather than make conclusions itself about the identity of the killer.
2. Shark Attacks of 1916
The second documentary on this list is all about the ever-growing concern and fear of shark attacks throughout America. It all started in 1916. An interesting but scary series of events happened in the area of Matawan and Beach Haven New Jersey.
These events eventually led to Steven Spielberg releasing his blockbuster movie Jaws in 1975, based on the 1974 book by Peter Benchley. These events are the beginnings of America’s fear of sharks. 4 people were killed and 1 injured.
The attacks left scientists scratching their heads for quite some time as to why the attacks happened. The documentary goes through it all, remind us just how dangerous these animals can be.
3. The Bridge
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is one of the largest architectural wonders of the world. A lot of time and resources were invested in creating the bridge. Today it remains as a beautiful reminder of human creation.
However, there is a darker side to this huge bridge. It has also been one of the most known suicide locales for people who decided to end their lives. The director of the documentary director Eric Steel used 10,000 hours of footage, capturing the last moments of 23 people who decided to take their lives on the Golden State Bridge.
There are a lot of interviews in this documentary including relatives of the jumpers. Also, one man survived the 25- story fall. You can find his interview in the documentary as well. The film caused a backlash because of its controversial content.
This eventually led to the city spending $2 million USD in order to fund building a pedestrian suicide barrier.
4. Child of Rage
This is one of the documentaries on the list that is a lot older than the others. But that does not mean it is every bit as interesting and enjoyable. Child of rage was filmed in 1990 when HBO paid attention to Beth Thomas.
Beth Thomas was a young girl who acted in a very specific, destructive and violent way. This left her adoptive parents at a loss on what to do. This is not necessarily an easy documentary to watch.
As Beth Thomas is interviewed the viewer has a chance to learn about how past traumas grasp and mold the psychology of people and their behavior. The documentary sheds some light on the way psychologists attempted to reestablish empathy in children through therapy.
Being 18 years old, the documentary also serves as an example of a time when a lot less was known about psychology.
5. The Scariest Drug in the World
Colombia has one of the world’s scariest drugs ever. And Vice reporter Ryan Duffy went to Columbia to get it. In this documentary, we learn about the effects of Scopolamine. It is a lot different for any other drug known.
It keeps people lucid but makes them amenable to do whatever you might say. The drug has been used for a huge number of crimes. People have been convinced to rob themselves and do pretty much anything wanted from them. It has also been widely used as a rape drug next to being used with the aim of humiliating the consumer.
“Chemical hypnosis” is the only word that comes to mind to describe this scary drug. You end up losing absolute control of any of your actions although you are totally awake. This documentary explores the stories of people who have been drugged with scopolamine. The interviews are bone-chilling.
6. The Men Who Killed Kennedy
This is one of the most controversial documentaries on this list. This is all because of the uproar the documentary received. It ended up being censored by the British Parliament.
This is because it includes a lot of theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A good number of these theories are covered by this nine-part documentary. It was however criticized for adding lots of information that is not based on real facts but rather speculation.
One of these theories includes the idea of President Lyndon B. Johnson being behind Kennedy’s assassination. After this episode aired on the history channel, the network suffered great controversy as former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter called the charges made in the documentary “the most damaging accusations ever made against a former vice president and president in American history.”
The series had very questionable research ethics. The documentarian Nigel Turner got censured by the British Parliament. The documentary should really stretch your critical thinking skills if you choose to watch it.
7. A Simpler Way: Crises as Opportunity
A lot of people have been aspiring to change the way they live. The hard ways of modern living are wearing down on them. You might even find yourself thinking about this.
A simpler way: Crises as Opportunity is a great YouTube documentary that teaches you all about how an Australian community lives simpler.
It talks about making changes to help the environment. The tiny group of people is at the center of the documentary. We get a chance to watch them work and discuss amongst themselves the beauty and obstacles of living a much simpler life.
The interviews are made with various experts and lead to a case much different from the other documentaries on this list.
8. Just Melvin – Just Evil
A few families were terrorized through years of sexual and physical abuse. And it was all by their shared step-father, Melvin. Eventually one of Melvin’s’ sons stepped in, confronting Melvin regarding his acts.
However, Melvin denies any physical or psychological harm despite them having memories of being abused by him for over a decade. There are not many documentaries on child abuse. The ending also comes with an outraging twist, and you will not be the same after watching it.
Through psychological and emotional manipulation, Melvin got what he wanted from his children numerous times. The whole documentary is a must watch for people who want to shine light on the gruesome world of child abuse.
Recently, MMA fighters have been starting to take up a very specific Martial art. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has certainly drawn a whole lot of attention these last few years. This documentary follows this martial art through one of its biggest names.
Throwing out a black belt one after the other, the Gracie family has been one of the most successful families in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In this documentary we see cameras follow Rickson Gracie who held at the time an amazing record of 398-0.
It also follows two other fighters as well. Ultimately the documentary is all about them preparing and training for the Vale Tudo Japan tournament which was a no-holds-barred, eight-man contest without any weight classes.
Choke is a great way to learn all about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the way it works and just how strong the people who train it are.
10. Inside North Korea
This documentary comes to us on YouTube with three parts. And it is hard to say which part is the best. Each goes on to show us the relationship between North Korea and foreign travelers who come to visit it. It is a vice documentary with Shane Smith.
The whole documentary centers around how the country works given its restrictions, strife and other things that leave a lot of people in the dark when it comes to understanding this particular country.
Since its creation, vice has made other documentaries on the subject, updating the specific situation. But this take and documentary still remains a must watch.
11. Charlottesville: Race and Terror
This vice documentary is full of information. In fact, it is probably one of the most informative documentaries on this list. This is because Vice News was present to report the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
An act of domestic terrorism ended up being the outcome, leaving one person dead. This documentary is short, only 22 minutes but it uses this short time effectively. Viewers get a chance to look behind the scenes and see all the details that went into planning the rally. After that, it ensures you see just how bad things like from the outside.
The danger, threats, and mayhem are apparent even through the camera lens. It is probably one of the most famous YouTube documentaries available as it immediately went viral and Vice and HBO made it available online for anyone to see. It explores the terrors of racism and the mindset of propagating dangerous rhetoric.
Psychopathy is a subject many people find fascinating. The dark twists and turns of a psychopaths’ mind evade even cutting-edge science and experts are frequently baffled. American and British researchers come together in this documentary to provide you with knowledge on what makes a psychopath.
A lot of the information that is offered in the documentary is general knowledge, and anyone who has looked into psychopaths will be familiar with some of the information. However, this documentary offers us a totally new angle that could eventually lead us to new information on just how psychopaths work.
Through pop culture, it is easy to get a lot of things wrong on this subject. This documentary is especially great at dispelling the entire stigma related to psychopaths.
13. The Trial: A Murder In The Family
BBC is great at showing us top notch quality documentaries. Thankfully they have made this one available on YouTube It introduces the crime as a husband being stood accused of murdering his wife. However, things are not as they seem in this one. It turns out all of the people in the trail except for the jury are actually actors.
The murder did not happen at all. It is as if it merges with elements of a social experiment, drama, and documentary. This is why A murder in the Family is a must watch. IT combines elements of things you usually do not find in any documentary.
14. 3D Printed Guns
This is another Vice documentary on the list. There are so many of them because they really know how to pick up on interesting subject matter with a great informative technique that is vital for any documentary really. It follows Cody Wilson.
Cody is vital to the 3D printed gun revolution. 3D printers are becoming more important as it seems they can print just about anything, even guns. Wilson shows the process of “printing” illegal firearms. He also makes it seem incredibly easy. As far as the government goes, they have no way of regulating or stopping him from doing this.
Because of the rising number of school shootings, this documentary proves just how scary it is when almost anyone can create their own firearm.
That’s it, I hope you will enjoy in some of these great YouTube documentary films.
If you plan on making a YouTube documentary yourself, we suggest reading:
- How To Start Making a Documentary
- Many documentaries are made on camcorders, and in this guide you will find plenty of options to start with.
If you have any suggestion for YouTube documentaries, let me know in the comment below.